Audibles at the Line: Week 14

San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors solely to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

San Francisco 49ers 48 at New Orleans Saints 46

Bryan Knowles: The 49ers' starting defense is lethal, so the Saints are pretty clearly opting to tackle the backups early in this one. Richard Sherman went out for a couple plays, and Drew Brees immediately targeted replacement Emmanuel Mosley for big gains. Jaquiski Tartt is out, so Brees hit Jared Cook, who bounces off replacement safety Marcell Harris and bounds into the end zone. A very, very nice opening drive for the Saints, who take a 7-0 lead early.

Scott Spratt: So much for the 49ers having the No. 1 DVOA defense against tight ends (subscription required). Jared Cook has a 38-yard touchdown catch, which is more yardage than they allow on average to the position per game.

Bryan Knowles: When people think of the 2019 49ers, we obviously think of high-powered, explosive offense. Jimmy Garoppolo was 4-of-5 for 81 yards on the 49ers' opening drive, with Emmanuel Sanders having gains of 19 and 31 yards and Deebo Samuel having a long catch-and-run as well. Garoppolo actually had more passing yards than the drive was long, thanks to a false start penalty (it's loud in the Superdome). 7-7 as we go back and forth in New Orleans.

Bryan Knowles: These ARE the second- and seventh-best defenses in football, right? Brees once again targets a 49ers backup, Azeez Al-Shaair, and Jared Cook picks his second touchdown of the day. Cook is shaken up on the play after a high hit by Ahkello Witherspoon. That sets the ball on the 1 for the two-point try, but the 49ers sniff it out to keep it at 13-7. Cook has been doing a fantastic job finding holes in the 49ers' defense so far today; it'll be a significant loss for New Orleans if he can't come back in.

Scott Spratt: And Jared Cook grabs another touchdown, this one while diving in the end zone and being struck in the head. So much for the 49ers' tight end defense again. Although this one may have injured Cook.

Bryan Knowles: This game is drunk. A bad punt and good return sets up the Saints for their third tight end touchdown of the day against the best tight end defense in football, and then Garoppolo throws an arm-punt that Emmanuel Sanders ends up coming down with for a 75-yard score -- he's up to 125 yards already; only Tyler Lockett and D.J. Moore have more yards against the Saints in a game this season. It's 20-14, Saints, 17 seconds into the second quarter.

Vince Verhei: I was in the car when Cook scored his second touchdown and got hit on the personal foul. National announcers were stunned the touchdown call stood up to review, and, well, I see their point.

Bryan Knowles: When I think quarterback sneaks, I don't think Drew Brees -- The Saints have enough options that they rarely feel the need to plunge their 40-year-old quarterback into the teeth of a defense. Facing fourth-and-1 from the goal line, however, that's exactly what the Saints do. The Saints have scored touchdowns on all four possessions, and they're up 27-14.

Bryan Knowles: If the 49ers' defense is failing, it's time for Kyle Shanahan to open the "only in emergencies" portion of the playbook. 21-yard pass to Samuel, 19-yard rush by Raheem Mostert, and then reverse pass option, Emmanuel Sanders-to-Mostert, for a 35-yard touchdown. 27-21 Saints, with six minutes left in the second. Just like we all expected, right?

Vince Verhei: The Saints scored touchdowns on each of their first four possessions. Their fifth drive failed because of their Taysom Hill fetish. First down, he drops back to pass. Pressure gets to him and he's able to escape the sack and scramble for a short gain. Two plays later, on third-and-1, they give him the ball on a direct snap and a quarterback sweep to the right, but Nick Bosa sniffs it out and makes the tackle in the backfield for a loss. Why would you take the ball out of Brees' hands when he's on fire like he has been today?

Dave Bernreuther: Vince, that's the question I've been asking ever since Hill made the team. It's great that he's a versatile player and great athlete and hard worker, but taking a Hall of Fame quarterback off the field is never a good idea.

Sure, he's had a few touchdowns, but they're not adding any expected value with the gadgetry.

(Do we have any figures on the Saints' yards per play when Hill is and isn't on the field? With and without the Bridgewater starts included? I'd love to see that.)

Scott Spratt: Speaking of Kyle Shanahan wizardry, he just ran a play that looked like the Music City Miracle. Garoppolo rolled right and then threw a barely forward pass completely across the field to George Kittle. The big difference here is that Marcus Davenport was not fooled. Despite several blockers, he tackled Kittle for a big loss. I guess every trick play can't work.

Bryan Knowles: Speaking of speaking of Kyle Shanahan wizardry, I don't think I've ever seen a fullback run the option in the NFL. A nice pitch from Kyle Juszczyk to Mostert converts a crucial third-and-1, and the 49ers find the end zone two plays later. 28-27, but the 49ers may have scored too soon.

Scott Spratt: Raheem Mostert entered this week with 6.3 yards per carry on 133 career carries. He had a 19.4% rushing DVOA last year and has a 20.5% rushing DVOA this year. Major props to Shanahan for benching his expensive back Tevin Coleman for him, but how did we all miss that Mostert was this good the whole time?

Aaron Schatz: I think that was pretty small sample last year, yes? Thirty-four carries. I don't know how much we learn from 34 carries last year and less than 100 this year, given how long it takes for running back performance to stablize.

Bryan Knowles: Oh, Mostert flashed last season, too. Just another reason why San Francisco's running back strategy this offseason was head-scratching. I guess it can't hurt to have four starting running back options.

Vince Verhei: Hell, Mostert didn't even have the best big-play resume in the 49ers backfield -- check what Matt Breida had done in 2017 and 2018. The Tevin Coleman acquisition was completely gratuitous, though the way the rest of their season has gone we can obviously forgive them for that.

Bryan Knowles: And remember, Jerrick McKinnon was supposed to be the starter this season!

Bryan Knowles: I really do want to cover some other games this window, but these teams just aren't letting up. The second half opens up with a pair of turnovers -- a Jimmy Garoppolo Special off the hands of Emmanuel Sanders, and an Alvin Kamara fumble into the teeth of the 49ers' line. The difference? The 49ers' defense stiffened up, holding Wil Lutz to a 55-yard field goal. The 49ers turned their turnover into a George Kittle touchdown, and it's 35-30 midway through the third.

Scott Spratt: Haha, I thought they were going to call back George Kittle's touchdown for like the fifth time this year. He dove and knocked down the pylon, but he knocked it down with his elbow not the ball. But the 49ers kicked the extra point, so no take-backs.

Bryan Knowles: Bizarre play. The Saints tried a fake punt from Taysom Hill, but it didn't work. The 49ers massively, MASSIVELY interfered with the wideout ... but there is a rule saying that there IS no pass interference on a punt. That's ... I mean, that's very strange. Result is the 49ers get the ball back at midfield, but I'd like to see that ruling explained better.

Vince Verhei: At least three times this game, the Saints have tried a sweep, pitch, or quick toss out to Nick Bosa's side, and all three times Bosa has sniffed out the play and made the tackle. They're trying to take advantage of his aggressiveness but he's showing he's smart too.

And then the Saints try a fake punt, and there's a deep pass downfield to the gunner, and the Saints absolutely mug the guy for what appears to be pass interference ... but apparently there is no DPI on passes out of punt formations. I admit, that is news to me. But it does make sense -- otherwise the defensive back would have an impossible task there, trying to cover the gunner without knowing if a pass had even been thrown.

Bryan Knowles: The first half saw the 49ers commit seven penalties, New Orleans zero. That's changed here in the second half, as San Francisco has been bailed out a bit by New Orleans mistakes on this last drive -- holding on a third-and-7 when the Saints had Garoppolo sacked, and an unnecessary roughness call on a third-and-8 incomplete pass. The 49ers take advantage and get into the end zone; 42-33 lead for the 49ers.

Bryan Knowles: Down nine, the Saints likely need points on every drive from here on out ... so they go to Michael Thomas, who is pretty good at football. He's up to nine catches for 118 yards and a touchdown; I imagine he'll be near or at the top of Quick Reads this week, considering the 49ers' defense. He had a 49-yard catch-and-run to get the Saints into scoring range and then a 21-yard touchdown to get them back within two points. Nail-biting time; 49ers up 42-40 with 6:06 left in the game.

Bryan Knowles: Saints get a huge sack on the 49ers in the red zone setting up third-and-20, and then Deebo Samuel goes out of bounds, saving New Orleans a timeout. The 49ers kick the field goal, so they have a five-point lead. Saints ball, 2:23 left, one timeout. Exciting finish set up for this one.

Vince Verhei: Saints pick up a critical third-down conversion on a DPI. Do a shot!

Aaron Schatz: Go-ahead touchdown, Tre'Quan Smith! Missed tackles by Fred Warner and Akheillo Witherspoon.

Bryan Knowles: Oh, the Saints just shred the 49ers defense. First, Richard Sherman gets hurt and limps off the field, and in the confusion, no one covers Ted Ginn. Huge gain for him. Then the 49ers commit pass interference on an incomplete pass on third-and-6, and the very next play, the Saints score the go-ahead touchdown. They DO stiffen up on the two-point conversion try, so the Saints have a one-point lead, 46-45. 53 seconds left and the 49ers do have all three timeouts left...

Vince Verhei: Coming into today, the 49ers had given up 12 touchdowns in 12 games.

Drew Brees has five touchdowns in this game.

Scott Spratt: George Kittle, what a beast. He snags that fourth-and-2 catch the 49ers absolutely had to have and then fought for 39 yards through a facemask penalty and multiple attempted tacklers.

Dave Bernreuther: Unreal. Dumpoffs with no sense of urgency with time running out will be rewarded because of George Kittle Beast Mode and perhaps the worst penalty we've seen in a day full of game-deciding penalties.

What a horrible piece of luck for Brees after what should've been a game winning drive.

Bryan Knowles: I don't know how you call that facemask penalty the worst penalty we've seen all day; Williams was practically hanging like jewlery off of Kittle's facemask.

Robbie Gould makes the 30-yard field goal, 49ers win, and I collapse from exhaustion.

Aaron Schatz: That facemask penalty was absolutely legit.

Dave Bernreuther: Oh I meant worst offender, not a bad call.

They'd likely have made the kick even without it though, as it was deeper in Saints territory than I thought at first. Still, I don't like that the 49ers were throwing short and playing slow with under a minute left. If the Saints tackle Kittle in bounds shortly after that catch, they're in really good shape with 38 seconds left.

Bryan Knowles: While I agree in theory, Dave, I'm OK with them drawing up their best play on fourth-and-2 to Kittle. Nice look out of the bunch formation; Sanders goes inside to draw the defense, leaving Kittle open to work out in the flat. Not as flashy as some of the big plays, but a great design to get the ball to the best player for two must-needed yards. The extra 37 yards, plus the 14 yards from the penalty, were gravy. Delicious, delicious gravy.

Dave Bernreuther: Yeah, Bryan, truth be told it was the second-down short toss attempt that made me angry. On fourth-and-ballgame, obviously you need to get the 2 yards. But it's hard to imagine they expected the extra 35 yards even as the best case when they called that play. Absent those, the game probably ends differently.

I'm not sure why I even care; I've been rooting for the 49ers over Seattle for the West all year anyway, so this helps that cause (I'm all for their rematch being a play-in game for either 1 or 5). But for some reason I was rooting for the Saints and this outcome bothers me.

Baltimore Ravens 24 at Buffalo Bills 17

Aaron Schatz: The Baltimore Ravens are so good at the mesh point of the zone read. I've watched their last couple games now and over and over, defenders are crashing down on running backs who don't have the ball while Lamar Jackson takes off for 8 yards. The Bills finally just read one right and had Justice Hill down for a loss of 6 -- that ended up leading to a Justin Tucker field goal so we're at 3-0 Baltimore. Bills have gone three-and-out in both their first two possessions.

Aaron Schatz: After one quarter, the story is how well the Baltimore defense is playing. Yes, Josh Allen has missed three deep throws with overthrows, a couple of those guys definitely had a step on the defenders, but it's not like he was throwing at those guys from a clear pocket, the pressure's been there. He just went down on a sack and lost the ball when tight end Dawson Knox couldn't block Matt Judon, who's near the top of the league in QB knockdowns this year. Then the Bills defense, which has been pretty good, tossed in a couple of penalties so the Ravens will start the second quarter with first-and-goal on the Bills 4.

Aaron Schatz: And the Ravens score on the third down, it was Lamar Jackson keeping on the zone read and when he saw he couldn't get into the end zone he ad-libbed, tossed the ball forward to tight end Nick Boyle who was in the end zone. 10-0 Ravens.

Scott Spratt: Lamar Jackson just threw his first interception since Week 5, although I wouldn't call this one his fault. He threw high over an intermediate linebacker, and Willie Snead got a hand on it. But really, he just tipped the ball back to Tremaine Edmunds. The Ravens are still up seven, 10-3.

Aaron Schatz: Nah, I'm going with Jackson's fault on the interception. That ball was overthown due to pressure on Jackson, it wasn't supposed to be that high to Snead. Bills can't do anything with it, they get one first down then are forced to punt when Allen gets sacked on third-and-10. Allen is noticeably limping off the field. So much Ravens pressure today.

Scott Spratt: Ouch! Josh Allen just got stepped on by one of his offensive linemen. It looked like he rolled an ankle, but that was on third down. We'll have to wait a series to see if this is going to knock him out of any snaps.

Bryan Knowles: I'm really not sure how you defend Lamar Jackson. If you spy on him to stop him from running, he can bootleg and throw a dart back across his body, like he just did to Willie Snead. Ravens take a 24-9 lead with 10 minutes left, and I think that will probably put the Bills away.

Scott Spratt: Bills went for two after scoring to pull their deficit to 24-15. The EdjSports team has to be pleased. So were the football gods, because the attempt worked and improved that score to 24-17 with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Aaron Schatz: Josh Allen finally goes over 100 yards for the day on a 37-yard pass down the right sideline to Dawson Knox. Devin Singletary runs 38 yards a couple of plays later and that puts the Bills at the goal line. After a couple of penalties, the Bills eventually get it in on a short pass to Cole Beasley and then hit the two-point conversion to make this game 24-17 Ravens. The Ravens' pass pressure and coverage has definitely been better than the run defense -- the Bills had an earlier drive where Singletary had something like 40 yards on the ground and then as soon as they tried to pass, the drive bogged down.

Scott Spratt: Wow, reminiscent of last week's Broncos finish but with way more at stake. On a fourth-and-16, Josh Allen avoids pressure and throws deep. Cole Beasley has a step but had no chance to reach the ball in the end zone. But Marlon Humphrey, maybe the best cover corner in football, inexplicably puts a hand on Beasley. That may or may not have induced Beasley to fall, but the refs called pass interference anyway. Huge play that could swing his game.

Aaron Schatz: Josh Allen took a sack he absolutely could not take, third-and-4 on the Baltimore 32. The Ravens sent seven. The Bills couldn't block it. You knew the Ravens were going to send a big blitz, it's just what they do this season. Bills had to leave back more blockers. Allen gets a reprieve when Baltimore commits DPI on fourth-and-16.

Aaron Schatz: Again, Josh Allen faces a big Baltimore blitz on third down. A guy came right through untouched to hurry him; Allen was lucky to get a pass off. Did the Bills not see on the film that the Ravens like to send big blitzes? It's what everyone knows about their defense. Fourth down, Allen tried to find John Brown but Marcus Peters got his hand in there and Baltimore will win this game.

Cincinnati Bengals 19 at Cleveland Browns 27

Dave Bernreuther: Baker Mayfield's second interception of the young day put the Bengals on a short field. Joe Mixon eventually punched in the touchdown from 1 yard away, and the Bengals are up 13-7 and looking to win their second straight game. That win would open the door for a lot of teams in the race for the top pick in the 2020 draft. Entering the weekend, the one-win Bengals had a 59.0% chance to win the top pick, but the Giants also have just two wins. And the Redskins, Falcons, and Dolphiins are all 3-9.

Can't wait for the Week 16 Dolphins vs. Bengals matchup.

Vince Verhei: Browns have rallied for a 14-13 halftime lead on a Denzel Ward pick-six and a Mayfield touchdown run, but they could have had even more. Odell Beckham made an amazing juggling catch down the left sideline and into scoring range that involved one juggle too many. The play was ruled complete on the field, but the Browns dilly-dallyed around rather than snapping the ball quickly, and the Bengals had time to challenge the play. On replay, it was clear Beckham didn't secure possession until he had stepped out of bounds, and the Browns ended up punting.

Vince Verhei: Browns up 24-16 at the end of three. They got a 57-yard Nick Chubb run to set up a Kareem Hunt touchdown. Bengals responded with a 16-play, 76-yard field goal drive. They actually converted a fourth-and-inches to give them a first-and-goal at the 2, but on first down Dalton hung in the pocket forever and suffered a critical sack. Browns added a 53-yard Austin Seibert field goal for their eight-point lead.

Vince Verhei: Bengals get a goal-to-go situation again, but on third down Dalton has to throw it away when a rusher comes unblocked off the edge. And then on fourth-and-goal from the 4, they run ... a quarterback draw? Dalton is stopped after a gain of 2 and Cleveland takes over on downs, still up eight.

The Bengals have outgained Cleveland about 150 yards in total offense, they have nearly doubled them in first downs, they are winning the turnover battle ... and they are probably going to lose because they can't get a touchdown to save their lives.

Vince Verhei: Oh my god, it happened to Cleveland again -- Jarvis Landry made a juggling catch deep downfield at the sideline. This one was ruled incomplete, but Cleveland challenged -- and lost. Next play, on third down, Mayfield throws a tip-drill interception, his third of the day. Bengals take over in the red zone, needing a touchdown and two-pointer to tie.

Or not! The ball was tipped because William Jackson interfered with Beckham. The officials reviewed that on their own and reversed the call. First down Browns!

Vince Verhei: Another critical pass interference play, in this game and in this week. Jarvis Landry takes a screen for 34 yards. Bengals challenge, claiming there was OPI. The call stands, and the Bengals lose their last timeout. The Browns are perfectly happy to run three times and kick a field goal for a 27-16 lead inside the two-minute warning.

Rob Weintraub: I know few people care about this game -- suffice to say that for everyone who was all "See? Andy Dalton isn't the problem in Cincy!" this was proof positive that he sure ain't the solution, either.

It was also readily apparent that for the disparity in record and the hype around the Browns the two teams are basically even in talent, even as both went without their respective best players today. The entirety of the result came to red zone execution and a handful of iffy calls, particularly one on William Jackson for pass interference (via replay!) that wiped out an interception deep in Cleveland territory.

Aside -- I know I'm supposed to want to lose in order to ensure Joe Burrow or whatever, but I was tossing out F-bombs like Tom Brady during this one...

Denver Broncos 38 at Houston Texans 24

Scott Spratt: The Broncos are up 21-0 on the Texans. The Texans just beat the Patriots in Week 13. So I guess by the transitive property, the Broncos are better than the Patriots and probably the second-best team in football behind Baltimore?

I may have just explained why the world needs DVOA. Individual football games can be nuts sometimes.

Bryan Knowles: It is really too bad Drew Lock was hurt for most of the first half of the season, because Denver might have a quarterback. At halftime, he's 16-for-19 for 235 yards and three touchdowns, as the Broncos are stomping a mudhole into the Texans. It's 31-3, Denver, at the half, and that might be THE shocking score of the early window.

Miami Dolphins 21 at New York Jets 22

Dave Bernreuther: Not much to say about this one, other than that my first thought when I saw the broadcast with the third-tier announcers and the Jets clad in the all-blacks was "why are they re-airing a college game?"

Whoever this play-by-play guy is (a quick check of reveals that it's Tom McCarthy), though, I like him. When the Fins chickened out and took a 25-yard field goal, his comment leading to the commercial was a disappointed "well that was a little conservative ... but it's now 9-6 New York."

Zach Binney: I have a nomination for stupidest stat of the week. After the opening drive of the second half, Miami's scores have been a 22-yard field goal, 25-yard field goal, 28-yard field goal, and then a 31-yard field goal.

I got a cool $20 that says if they score again it'll be a 34-yard field goal. At least our game can be arithmetically interesting.

Zach Binney: Well Miami did ATTEMPT a 34-yard field goal! Just wide right. Next up, 37. Let's keep this going, fellas!

Scott Spratt: Jason Sanders has made six field goals to give the Dolphins all of their 18-16 lead. Can't stop the Fins!

Scott Spratt: And Sanders drains his seventh field goal to put the Dolphins up 21-19 with less than two minutes for Darnold to try to answer.

Vince Verhei: I've got the Bills and Jets games on side-by-side TVs here. Almost simultaneously to Buffalo's fourth-and-16 DPI conversion, the Jets get a third-and-18 incompletion reversed to a DPI and a first down. And in this case, that's almost all they need -- they pick up one more first down, then kick the winning field goal as time expires.

As a fan, I am really, really getting sick of games being decided by pass interference flags.

Carolina Panthers 20 at Atlanta Falcons 40

Scott Spratt: Calvin Ridley just taunted the Panthers by stopping short of the goal line on a bunny touchdown and then reaching the ball across without the rest of his body. I don't love the karma play. It's not breaking news the Panthers are a mess. They fired their coach a few days ago.

Scott Spratt: Yikes, Panthers. First, they allow a 93-yard touchdown to Olamide Zaccheaus. It was his first career catch -- really nice 93.0 average YPC -- and the longest completion of Matt Ryan's career. Then the Panthers fumble away the ensuing kickoff, which kicker Younghoe Koo amazingly recovers.

Bryan Knowles: Olamide Zaccheaus. That's not a name I've ever had to type before; he just caught his first NFL pass ... a 93-yard touchdown, the longest scoring play of the year. Sure, why not. And on the ensuing kickoff, the Panthers fumble and Younghoe Koo dives into the pile and comes up with the ball! 30-10 Falcons, as the Panthers have just given up on the year.

Scott Spratt: They just showed a stat on the broadcast that the Panthers have 18 turnovers since Week 6, second most in the NFL. My initial reaction was "who could possibly have more?" But then I realized we'd been talking about the Buccaneers in this thread all day. It absolutely has to be them.

Indianapolis Colts 35 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38

Bryan Knowles: Weird sequence at the end of the first half here. Indianapolis lines up to go for it on fourth-and-1 from near the goal line, but they don't like what they see, and Jacoby Brissett turns around to call a timeout. Problem: they had just called a timeout after getting down there, and you can't call back-to-back timeouts! The refs, correctly, do not stop the play, and Brissett has to whirl, run back to the line, snap it and just dive forward. It picks up the first down but not the touchdown, and the Colts just kick a field goal to take a 27-21 halftime lead. Bad situational awareness, decent result for Indy.

Bryan Knowles: Jameis Winston is OUT with a hand injury (and also possibly two interceptions). Ryan Griffin makes his NFL debut as part of his scheme to continuously make me screw up "R.Griffins" around the league.

Scott Spratt: Wait, did Jameis Winston just throw that touchdown to Justin Watson? Was he un-benched?

Bryan Knowles: He did -- came back in after missing two series, I think it was. His hand was apparently better!

Andrew Potter: He was being checked by the trainers, and they didn't get him back out of the locker room until their first drive of the second half was underway. I don't think he was ever benched, as such.

Andrew Potter: Word of Jameis Winston's demise is somewhat premature, as he returns midway through the third quarter with the Bucs trailing 35-21 and immediately drives them down the field for another score. Winston has now thrown for three touchdowns and rushed (well, snuck) for a fourth, but also had a pick on his first drive and a pick-six in the second quarter. This game has been a microcosm of Winston's season, which itself has been a microcosm of Winston's career. I still have no idea what the team will do after this season. They've never extended a drafted starting quarterback past his rookie contract, and I guess Winston is good enough to get that monkey off their back, but he's so extreme as a passer that you just can't be sure what you're going to get on any given play. Wedding your rebuild to a player like that is a tough sell.

Scott Spratt: Haha, on a fourth-and-2, Jacoby Brissett throws, has his pass batted, and catches it. He ends up throwing a sideways pass that is ruled an illegal forward pass. But Jack Doyle didn't get close to the first-down yardage he needed anyway. Bucs ball with less than two minutes left. The Bucs are going to pull this one out thanks to/despite the full Jameis experience.

Bryan Knowles: Just clearing up the Jameis Winston confusion from earlier -- Winston has a "slight crack" in his thumb, which is why he missed the start of the second half. Mike Evans is the more significant injury, as his hamstring injury "doesn't look good." With the Buccaneers officially eliminated from the postseason today, there's no need for Evans to come back at all.

Washington Redskins 15 at Green Bay Packers 20

Vince Verhei: Packers lead in this one, but it has been more of a struggle than you'd think. They were up 14-6 at halftime as Washington only had one good drive, getting a big run from Derrius Guice and a big catch by Kelvin Harmon to set up an Adrian Peterson touchdown run. Third quarter, Packers drive into scoring range looking to drive a stake in their heart, but after Jamaal Williams converts a fourth-and-1, they still end up settling for a field goal. 17-6 now, and though Washington has looked unimpressive most of the game, they are hanging around.

Scott Spratt: Oh no, Derrius Guice is out with another knee injury? Did anyone see whether that was serious or not?

Vince Verhei: It was a slog for Green Bay, but it looks like they finally finished this one off. Their last drive covered 74 yards over 14 plays and ate up nearly seven and a half minutes of clock. They ended up kicking a field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 15, but that kick gave them a 20-9 lead with less than three minutes to go, so can't blame them for that one.

Kansas City Chiefs 23 at New England Patriots 16

Scott Spratt: I'm sure we'll have plenty to say about this game when it starts in 20 minutes. But I'm just now seeing this hilarious story that half of the Chiefs' players equipment got mistakenly sent to Newark, N.J., instead of Boston. If they hadn't gotten that to Foxboro in time for the game, the Chiefs would have had to forfeit.

Aaron Schatz: By the way, the Chiefs luggage has arrived at Gillette.

Aaron Schatz: I don't have a total for you but there have been roughly twice as many flea flickers this season as in the average NFL season. I love this play so much. Patriots just scored their first touchdown on one, with Julian Edelman wide open deep down the right sideline for 37 yards.

Scott Spratt: This game feels like it's going to be just as exciting as the 49ers-Saints one, Aaron.

Scott Spratt: The Patriots didn't turn the Texans over last week, the first time all year they did not get any turnovers in a game. But they didn't even need a quarter to force one this week, with J.C. Jackson jumping in front of Demarcus Robinson to intercept Patrick Mahomes. With a short field, the Pats are getting close to going up multiple scores early.

Scott Spratt: Patrick Mahomes was looking at his wrist after landing on it a couple of plays ago. He just completed an intermediate pass, but this could be a thing.

Carl Yedor: The Mahomes hand issue is definitely looking like a thing. As the broadcast cut to commercial, he was getting it looked at on the sideline. It doesn't seem to be preventing him from getting the ball where it needs to be for now, but it could definitely be a problem moving forward. Now 7-3 New England after a Harrison Butker field goal.

Bryan Knowles: Injured hand or no injured hand, Mahomes tosses a deep shot to Mecole Hardman. It doesn't really hit him in stride; Hardman has to stop and come back a bit to catch the floater. Perhaps that is what jukes Jonathan Jones, who misses the tackle and lets Hardman scamper the rest of the way into the end zone. 10-7 Chiefs.

Aaron Schatz: Great play by Bashaud Breeland who was covering Julian Edelman but saw Matt LaCosse's route all the way, came off Edelman and easily intercepted a pass to LaCosse. Chiefs get the ball back.

Bryan Knowles: Nice play design by the Chiefs on their last touchdown. Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Spencer Ware all lined up in the backfield along with Mahomes; that's not something I think the Patriots would have seen on film coming in to today. The direct snap goes to Kelce, and full credit to him for not just plunging at the hole, but veering back and finding an open lane for the touchdown, as the Chiefs turn the Brady interception into seven.

Carl Yedor: That Kansas City touchdown was pretty cool. On third-and-goal from about the 5, the Chiefs motion into a full house backfield with Travis Kelce lined up at quarterback in the pistol. From there, they run inverted veer and Kelce plunges in for the score. As Bryan mentioned, that definitely would not have been something the Patriots should have expected from film study heading into today's game.

Carl Yedor: It feels like the referees have been picking up flags every third play. Obviously an exaggeration, but in the past few drives, the refs have picked up a flag for intentional grounding on New England, roughing the passer on New England, and a likely illegal block downfield on Kansas City. Jerome Boger's crew has taken a very collaborative approach to officiating so far in this game. Kansas City's two-minute drill stalls out shortly after the picked-up flag for an illegal block, forcing them to settle for three. 20-7 with New England getting the ball back with about a minute left in the half.

Bryan Knowles: I approve of the refs getting together to make the calls correct. Not so much in the time taken to do so, but I suppose accuracy is better than speed, if you had to pick one.

Bryan Knowles: Was that … booing as the Patriots left the field? Yeah, today's game isn't going well, but you're booing Tom Brady in New England? C'mon, guys.

Aaron Schatz: I've been adamant that the Patriots offense over the last few games has been closer to average, not really that bad. But this is bad today. This is a bad run defense, and the Patriots can't run on them except for one James White 19-yard gain. The Chiefs are getting pressure on Brady, and he's missing guys because of it. He has no trust in his receivers other than Edelman, and then he even has missed an open Edelman thanks to the pressure. The Mohamed Sanu trade clearly didn't work, Sanu mostly has been off the field. N'Keal Harry has been on the field for a grand total of one play, so he's no kind of savior. It's a mess, totally discombobulated. Each week's offensive performance seems worse than the one before it. The defense hasn't played up to its early-season level either but considering how much Kansas City has had the ball, and in what good field position, and the fact that Kansas City is a damn good offense, it's hard to blame them too much for giving up 20 points.

Vince Verhei: Chiefs kick a field goal on fourth-and-2 from the New England 23 for a 23-7 lead. Ordinarily I'd be snarling about the need to be aggressive against the Patriots in New England. Given how lost the Patriots have looked on offense today, however, I can't fault for Kansas City to extending their lead to two touchdowns and two two-pointers.

Bryan Knowles: Does anyone know the record for punts blocked in a season? I don't think New England is challenging it quite yet, but I think they just picked up their fourth of the year. Bolden runs in an end-around for a touchdown two plays later, and it's back to a 23-13 Chiefs lead.

Aaron Schatz: Blocked punt for Nate Ebner. There have been nine official blocked punts in the NFL this year and the Patriots now have four of them. I don't count blocked punts in special teams DVOA because they are "non-predictive" plays, even though they have a lot of value. But four in one year makes you wonder if they are predictive when you have a team in the extreme like this. Or is it just a case that every so often, some special teams unit is bound to have four in one year? Patriots score two plays later, with running plays finally working against the Chiefs -- one for 10 yards, one for 9 yards. The run on the two-point conversion doesn't work, so it's now 23-13 Chiefs.

Aaron Schatz: Devin McCourty knocks the ball free from Travis Kelce, but the officials blow the play dead when Stephon Gilmore recovers it and it looks like he may be running for a touchdown. Patriots challenge showed it was a fumble but the Patriots lose the possibility of that defensive score. Given the way their offense is playing right now, that whistle may have cost them seven points, because I don't know if the offense can score even starting at midfield.

Bryan Knowles: The Patriots join the elite club of teams killed by an early whistle. Tracis Kelce fumbled, the Patriots scooped and were on their way for a defensive score, but the refs blew the whistle and called the play dead. But no, Kelce's fumble WAS real, the play was overturned, and the Patriots don't get the benefit of the return. Oops.

Bryan Knowles: N'Keal Harry dives into the end zone -- but the refs rule him out of bounds at the 3. He's pretty clearly in bounds on the replay, but the Patriots are out of challenges and can't throw the flag!

But the Patriots, of course, get all the calls, right?

Carl Yedor: That was a great example of why spot challenges are often not worth it. Kansas City definitely got a very favorable spot on a first down on their previous drive, but since the correct spotting of the ball *probably* would have netted a first down, the call stood upon replay review. As a result, New England could not earn a third challenge after winning their second challenge on the Kelce forced fumble. Super surprised that happened at home given that home-field advantage often comes into play with officiating decisions.

Bryan Knowles: James White throwing passes, Tom Brady rushing for first downs (fourth-longest carry of his career) … New England's just making this offense up as they're going along, and it's working.

Bryan Knowles: Ooooh, if Julian Edelman doesn't fall down, that's at least a first, probably a touchdown. As it is, Bashaud Breeland knocks down the fourth-down play, and the Chiefs are going to win.

Aaron Schatz: The funny thing is that in the long run this may not mean anything to the Patriots. Let's assume they beat Cincinnati and Miami ... if they beat Buffalo at home in Week 16, they're going to be the second seed. Baltimore won its hardest remaining game today and would probably be in the No. 1 seed no matter what. So the Pats were probably the No. 2 seed win or lose today. Where it matters is in putting Kansas City past Houston/Tennessee for the No. 3 seed, which probably means Kansas City comes back here in a few weeks for a divisional round game. Hopefully the officiating in that one is more agreeable to everyone.

Aaron Schatz: It's also worth noting something that I'm sure will be discussed a lot, which is that the Patriots pulled everything possible out of the playbook to try to win this game. The flea flicker, the halfback option pass, the all-out punt block rush with no return man. They're showing desperation. They know the offense is a problem and they're coaching like it.

Rob Weintraub: Calling it now -- Bengals shock the Pats next week...

Rob Weintraub: Crap -- forgot that the last time New England got beat by Kansas City then played the Bengals it was "On to Cincinnati" and they of course demolished us so never mind.

Tennessee Titans 42 at Oakland Raiders 21

Vince Verhei: Dion Jordan tips Ryan Tannehill's pass at the line of scrimmage, and 291-pound Maurice Hurst reels in the interception. He's rumbling down the field, and it's looking like we're going to get a quality big-man touchdown , but then Tannehill, the former wideout, zooms in out of nowhere and just LEVELS him to the turf. Didn't accomplish much, but it sure was exciting.

Josh Jacobs is out for Oakland, but DeAndre Washington is in, and he rumbles through some tackles for a 14-yard touchdown to put Oakland up 7-0.

Bryan Knowles: I know Tannehill's resurgence is sparking the Titans' late-season push, but Tannehill has never had a back like Derrick Henry to help take some of the pressure off of him. Henry's already up to 50 yards rushing on in the day late in the first quarter, popping into the end zone to tie the game at seven.

Vince Verhei: First-and-10 from the 9, Tannehill hangs in the pocket and takes a big hit, but delivers a strike to A.J. Brown downfield. Daryl Worley is beat in coverage, and then can't bring Brown to the ground, and Brown escapes his grasp for a 91-yard touchdown.

Derrik Klassen: Not any sort of surprise the Titans are having their way with the Raiders defense. Oakland's defense is soft all around, but has a particularly weak middle of the field. Ryan Tannehill shines in that area and it has shown so far. One of Tannehill's only two incompletions through 12 attempts so far was a weird tip-drill interception at the line on a screen pass, which isn't really indicative of anything. Sometimes fluky interceptions like that just happen. If Oakland's offense keeps this close enough to force a "shootout," I expect Tannehill to clear 400 yards by the end of this one.

Vince Verhei: Big-man picks aside, not much defense in this one. Rico Gafford is no Olamide Zaccheaus, but his first NFL reception was a 49-yard touchdown when he ran a corner route out of a bunch formation and all the Titans covered the inside receivers, leaving Gafford all alone on the perimeter.

Tennessee's response drive wasn't nearly so spectacular, but it did cover 77 yards in eight plays, ending in a touchdown on third-and-13 from Tannehill to Brown. Titans up 21-14 and we're still partway through the second quarter.

Vince Verhei: Raiders finish the first half with a 14-play, 71-yard drive that lasts six-plus minutes and ends with a Carr touchdown pass to Foster Moreau for a goal-line touchdown. At some point during that drive Derrick Henry went jogging into the locker room. Very weird that he would just leave in the middle of an Oakland drive.

I spoke too soon about Oakland finishing the half! They left 24 seconds for Tennessee to work with, which is enough for Tannehill to hit MyCole Pruitt downfield for 39 yards. That sets up a 42-yard field goal try, but Ryan Succop's kick hits the uprights, and we remain tied at 21. Raiders will get the ball to start the second half.

Bryan Knowles: There has been one punt in this game as we reach the halftime break. Six touchdowns, an interception, and then a missed field goal as time expired. The Titans have been the more explosive team to this point, but the one Tannehill interception looms large. A.J. Brown is up to 141 yards with a pair of scores, including the second 90-plus-yard touchdown of the day. Ryan Tannehill is going to get paid, as pregame reports have the Titans working on a long-term deal, and not just the franchise tag. I'd be highly hesitant about giving a long term deal to a player basically on a six-week hot streak, but it's hard to argue with the sorts of numbers he's putting up.

Vince Verhei: After all the fireworks in the first half, we open the second half with an exchange of punts. Henry is back in for Tennessee.

Derrik Klassen: Derek Carr just threw what should have been an interception. Broke the pocket while under pressure and tossed a frantic pass to a receiver who slipped. Pass didn't look right regardless, but the falling wide receiver gave a Titans defender a free shot at it. Lucky for Carr, the defender couldn't come up with it. Seems like both offenses have slowed down here in the second half.

Bryan Knowles: In case no one mentioned it earlier, Derrick Henry is back in the game. He just scored his second touchdown of the day, but it was set up by a 42-yard catch-and-run by MyCole Pruitt; a good job of Pruitt getting free and turning a medium gain into a big one. Titans retake the lead, 28-21.

Derrik Klassen: Well, Tennessee opens up the second-half scoring with a drive that started deep in their own territory. Tannehill strung together a few short gains before ripping one down the right hash to MyCole Pruitt. Henry finished off the drive by punching it in with a strong run down the middle, stretching over the goal line to complete the play. Oakland's offense needs a response.

Bryan Knowles: I'll add that Oakland's worst defensive DVOA came in the 42-24 loss to Green Bay back in Week 7 (though the blowout against the Jets came close). They might top that today.

Bryan Knowles: I think the Raiders are toast. The Titans just had back-to-back 80-yard drives, as they're just turning the Raiders defense into shreds. It's 35-21 Tennessee to start the fourth, and I don't see the Raiders putting anything together to get back in this one.

Vince Verhei: Pro Fooball Reference just Tweeted that Tennessee is over 500 yards of offense for the first time since 2009. There's still more than 13 minutes left in this game. And there's a defensive score, as Tye Smith forces a Darren Waller fumble and Jason Brown returns it for a touchdown and a 42-21 lead. This Tennessee team is starting to look really, really scary.

Bryan Knowles: A moment of silence for the relevancy of the Oakland Raiders; this loss essentially kills their playoff chances for this year, and they're leaving town.

Tom Gower: The simple summary of this game is that both teams moved the ball well in the first half, while only the Titans continued to do so in the second. Derrik was a bit off in his yardage prediction -- Tannehill finished with a mere 391 yards passing. From a defensive perspective, I might be most exasperated by the 91-yard touchdown to Brown, both the yards after catch and the way Clelin Ferrell played the play as a rusher -- pulling the tight end (Jonnu Smith) across as a blocker is a thing I've seen get blown up over and over, but not there, not in time to prevent the throw. Tannehill remained the same effective and aggressive player he has been and that the Titans have been happy with.

I don't have a good enough feel to say what might have changed with the Titans defense in the second half so that Oakland's offense struggled more. It felt to me more like it was just a series of individual plays. The most important one might have come on the Raiders' first drive of the second half. They got to third-and-2 at the Titans 39, excellent go-for-it territory in a 21-21 game, but Carr took a 4-yard sack and Gruden punted. The defense would force their first punt the ensuing possession, but cracked the next drive and the one after that. The losses by Houston and Indianapolis today help them out, but the two remaining Texans games sandwiching the Saints game will determine their fate.

Los Angeles Chargers 45 at Jacksonville Jaguars 10

Bryan Knowles: This is kinda-sorta a playoff game, in the sense that the loser will be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. The winner might be out too, depending on how the Steelers and Titans do, but at the very least, a loss would end one of two disappointing seasons.

So far, the Chargers have been the less disappointing of the two, with touchdowns on two of their first three possessions, each sparked by big Austin Ekeler runs. 14-3 Chargers early.

Bryan Knowles: There's no reason to pay attention to this one, but Mike Williams just made a great catch to extend the Chargers' lead to 38-10. More notably ... that's Williams' first touchdown of the year, after scoring 10 in 2018. Coming into today, he had 778 receiving yards with no scores -- that would have been the seventh-most of all time.

It wasn't even first THIS season, mind you. Robert Woods has 835 yards and no touchdowns; he's chasing Al Toon's 963 yards from 1991 for the all-time record.

Bryan Knowles: We all wondered if the Chargers would have to replace Philip Rivers, and they've finally had enough. With a 38-10 lead, the Chargers have put Tyrod Taylor in to start the fourth quarter.

Pittsburgh Steelers 23 at Arizona Cardinals 17

Vince Verhei: Special teams touchdowns are maybe the worst things to happen for football analysts. They're very important, but there's not much to say about them. "Punt return touchdowns are good. Teams should return punts for touchdowns whenever they can."

Well, anyway, Diontae Johnson returned a punt 85 yards for a Pittsburgh touchdown.

Vince Verhei: Steelers get a field goal at the gun to take a 13-10 halftime lead. This is apparently the first quarterback matchup in league history pitting that year's first overall draft pick against an undrafted rookie, and so far Devlin Hodges has better numbers than Kyler Murray. He's 9-of-10 for 90 yards and also leads the team with 28 rushing yards. But the Steelers have only scored a pair of field goals in four offensive possessions -- they kicked a field goal on fourth-and-3 from the 12, and punted on fourth-and-5 from the Arizona 42. Benny Snell also fumbled the ball away on one drive.

Murray is 13-of-17 but still below 100 yards passing. Arizona's field goal came on a 22-yard drive after the Snell fumble. Murray did hit Charles Clay for a 5-yard touchdown on Arizona's one good possession, but for 30 minutes both offenses have mostly been sputtering.

Vince Verhei: Brilliant interception by Joe Haden to snuff out an Arizona drive on the brink of the red zone. Looked like he had deep-third responsibility, but broke instantly on a short out route by a slot receiver, covering a ton of real estate in a very short time and making the diving grab for the pick. Pittsburgh's defense now leads the league in takeaways.

Vince Verhei: Steelers make the turnover pay off with a touchdown. Most of the yardage came on runs and penalties, but on third-and-goal Hodges hits Johnson coming back to the left pylon for the score. That puts the Steelers up 20-10 at the end of four, but that lead is in danger -- Christian Kirk has put the Cardinals in scoring range again with a 14-yard gain on third-and-6 and then a 31-yard catch after a Murray scramble on the last play of the third.

Bryan Knowles: T.J. Watt with a big interception in the end zone to keep this a two-score game. Murray had an open lane for the first down, but decided to throw it instead, and Watt was all over it.

Vince Verhei: Well, never mind. Cards go for it on fourth-and-2 from the 6. Murray scrambles and it looks like he has easy room to run for a conversion, but he forces a pass into the end zone -- right to T.J. Watt for the interception and the touchback. Oops.

Bryan Knowles: The Steelers just got obliterated on a fake punt; one that was blocked so badly I honestly wonder if it was a called play or an audible by the punter.

Arizona takes the opportunity and goes deep, scoring a touchdown to make it 20-17 with 6:44 left. We have a game again!

Vince Verhei: Well Arizona gets back into this after some weirdness. Steelers are set to punt, but Jordan Berry takes the deep snap and just charges forward. Only problem is, none of his teammates are blocking for him. He's hit for an 8-yard loss, and not that it matters but he fumbles and the Cards recover. If that was a designed fake, it was designed very poorly. If it wasn't, well, Berry's going to have some explaining to do to his teammates.

And right away Murray makes him pay -- third-and-2, he finds David Johnson in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown, dropping the ball over a leaping Pittsburgh defender. Steelers still lead 20-17.

Vince Verhei: Hodges completes a pass for a third-down conversion at the Arizona 9 at the two-minute warning. Cardinals still have two timeouts, so this isn't over yet, but it brings up a point about failed completions: Hodges is now 8-for-8 on third downs ... but only three of those completions have picked up first downs.

Vince Verhei: Oh man, huge mistake by Pittsburgh just left the door open for Arizona. Second-and-goal, they try a quick pass to the flat, but the Cardinals knock it down for a clock-stopping incompletion. Steelers eventually get the field goal, but now Murray and the Cardinals have 1:42 left needing a touchdown to win.

Vince Verhei: Well, Pittsburgh's pass rush shut that door real quick. Sacks on first and second down, then pressure on third and fourth down to force an incompletion and a game-sealing interception. The crowd was cheering for Pittsburgh so loudly the Cardinals had to go to a silent count -- yes, in Arizona.

Detroit Lions 7 at Minnesota Vikings 20

Tom Gower: I didn't get a chance to watch the Lions on Thanksgiving, so I missed partaking in the first version of the David Blough Experiment, or "if you're on your third quarterback, you're probably in trouble." This one by and large went by the book, save perhaps that it was a little lower-scoring than expected. Minnesota stuck with the run game, which was effective enough, and Kirk Cousins was extremely efficient even if not aggressive on play-action passes. The Lions cross midfield three times in the first 55 minutes; all three such possessions ended with a sack for big loss of yards on third down (-14, -12, and -8) and a subsequent kick (two punts, one missed field goal). It's tough to score when you can't sustain offense and don't produce explosive plays (longest gain 23 yards, on the late touchdown drive).

Seattle Seahawks 12 at Los Angeles Rams 28

Bryan Knowles: The Seahawks have now faced nine fourth-and-1s on the season (not counting one penalty). They have punted five times, and attempted one field goal. Teams are going for it at about a 55% clip this season, so the Seahawks are really showing how much faith they have in their offense, I guess.

So far, their defense is struggling to slow down the Rams. They're mostly staying in base defense against the Rams' three-wide sets, and it's not really working; the Rams are averaging 9.6 yards per play. It's 7-3 at the end of the first quarter, and the Rams are driving again.

Vince Verhei: Rams up 7-3 and driving at the end of one. Pretty much everything they've tried has worked, and there has been a lot of classic McVay stuff -- motion, misdirection, play-action, and quick throws. Biggest play on the touchdown drive was a long pass to Tyler Higbee when the Seahawks were fooled on a fake screen.

Seahawks looked good on their first drive but the second was the Schottenheimer special: three handoffs and a punt on fourth-and-1 with Russell Wilson getting no chance to make a play.

Aaron Schatz: Courtesy of Business Daddy EdjSports, Pete Carroll ranks 30th this year in their critical call index. His allergy to going for it on fourth down is a significant problem.

Bryan Knowles: I noted that Mike Williams had his first touchdown catch today, and that Robert Woods still hadn't found the end zone. Scratch that -- Woods has 62 yards on five catches, the most recent getting him into the end zone for the 14-3 Rams lead.

That puts Dalvin Cook and his 503 yards atop the no-touchdown-catch leaderboards, and helps ensure Al Toon's record will stand for another year.

Carl Yedor: Rams score again, pushing it to 14-3. Seattle doesn't look like they have answers to stop the Los Angeles passing game, which may help them in limiting Todd Gurley's yards but likely won't help them make stops against the offense as a whole. If they don't score on this drive, it could get ugly quick.

Aaron Schatz: OMG Pete Carroll actually went for a fourth-and-1. Ugh, it didn't work, which will discourage him from doing it again.

Bryan Knowles: Of course, now that we've dug up those stats, the Seahawks DO go for it on fourth-and-1, and Jalen Ramsey breaks it up. Damned if you do, I guess.

Vince Verhei: And then Seattle does go for it on fourth-and-1 in field goal range, and the play works perfectly, except that Malik Turner drops the easy pass. Can't win for losing.

Carl Yedor: Yeah, I was about to say, we may never see it happen again, especially if the Rams score off of it now. Carroll fully tilted toward not going for it after the New Orleans game this year. In that one, a somewhat more aggressive fourth-and-1 turned into a Saints score in short order, and Carroll made a massive swing in the opposite direction. They missed a couple of conversions in that game, and those missed conversions definitely stuck with him.

Vince Verhei: No Rashad Penny, so C.J. Prosise is in, and he and Wilson botch a handoff in the backfield. Third down, Jacob Hollister drops what should have been a conversion. Seahawks doing a fine job of beating themselves.

Carl Yedor: Back-to-back Seattle drives end thanks to dropped passes, as Wilson hits Jacob Hollister right between the numbers only for his tight end to drop the pass. Seattle's defense will need another stop given that Los Angeles gets the ball after halftime as well.

Bryan Knowles: 21-3 at the half, in a game that Seattle is in danger of getting washed out of. It's not so much their performance on offense that's causing the Seahawks problems, though drops have been killing them -- it's the defense really struggling to stop Sean McVay and the Rams. The Rams are going fairly high tempo, and the Seahawks aren't even getting lined up properly, much less executing. They've gotta find a way to get some pressure on Jared Goff in the second half, or this thing is going to get ugly.

Bryan Knowles: Make that 21-9 real quick -- Robert Woods stopped on a route, Jared Goff threw where Woods should have been, and Quandre Diggs is there to take it into the end zone. Jason Myers misses the PAT, but that's exactly what Seattle needed to get back into this one.

Vince Verhei: Game changes on the first drive of the second half. Shaquem Griffin stunts inside and is unblocked in Goff's face. Goff's pass goes right to Quandre Diggs for a pick-six. Griffin has zero career sacks but he might still be Seattle's best pass-rusher. That's not good. And Jason Myers misses the PAT because of course he does.

Vince Verhei: Not a pick-six, but Diggs gets another interception, in part because Griffin got pressure again.

Vince Verhei: So in that third quarter, the Seahawks got two interceptions and a blocked field goal. The offense contributed ten plays for 40 yards.

Vince Verhei: Todd Gurley stampedes over Tre Flowers into the end zone to make it 28-9 and pretty much end this one. Among Seattle's problems tonight -- and there were many -- they never adjusted to L.A.'s jet sweeps and end-arounds. Rams wide receivers have five carries for 58 yards, including a few good gains on that last drive.

Bryan Knowles: I'm not sure Tre Flowers can show his face in Seattle this week after that Gurley stiff-arm. Yowza.


122 comments, Last at 18 Dec 2019, 8:59am

#1 by theslothook // Dec 09, 2019 - 5:20am

Greetings from India and hence why this is being posted so early. So so sad I will be missing the home stretch(returning just in time for the playoffs happily). I will of course be relying on audibles and the comments to get me to speed!



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#8 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2019 - 8:49am

Scouting a long snapping pheenom who lives in a remote Keralan village, no doubt....

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#119 by armchair journ… // Dec 10, 2019 - 10:19pm

nfl gamepass is the ticket for overseas viewing (far better than domestic choices, i'd say) .. that of course presumes you have internet.

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#121 by Eddo // Dec 11, 2019 - 11:34am

I recently moved to the UK and can vouch for GamePass (though there are still some blacked out games, ugh), but for India, the bigger problem is the timing.  The early games start at 11:30 PM, the late games at 3 AM... but at least the "night" games come on first thing in the morning!

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#122 by theslothook // Dec 18, 2019 - 8:59am

Indeed the timing makes it especially problematic. That and family affairs. And no, no probowl prospects out here from what I can tell.

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#2 by t.d. // Dec 09, 2019 - 5:24am

Pats defense and special teams continue their heroic play this week; they should do more of those wr/rb passes, those look good.  another game of the year candidate for 49ers, Brees was so incredible and they still lost.  Josh Allen: 1-16 for 6 yards when pressured

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#11 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 09, 2019 - 8:52am

Yes and no. They probably wanted that blocked FG back, late.

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#3 by big10freak // Dec 09, 2019 - 7:52am

The Packers are no longer net negative on punt returns!

That is about all that makes a Packers fan feel good about this game. Yes GB is 10-3, but if a fan has had the good luck to see multiple seasons that ended in playoff opportunities you have 'some' feel for what makes a quality team.

GB generates no such aura.

All I got

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#4 by big10freak // Dec 09, 2019 - 8:06am

really impressed me with the willingness to throw between the numbers into tight windows. Happened multiple times.

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#75 by Bryan Knowles // Dec 09, 2019 - 1:14pm

Yeah, this is the flipside to all of Jimmy G's crazy interceptions -- he trusts his arm to put the ball in tight windows, regardless of the coverage.


It's not quite Favreian gunslingery; it's not deep enough downfield and that makes the interceptions worse.  But it's that same sort of confidence in his ability.  Ideally, that's paired with better decision making, but hey.

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#5 by PatsFan // Dec 09, 2019 - 8:24am

I think Brady’s elbow is worse than he’s letting on. Lots of floaters today.

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#6 by big10freak // Dec 09, 2019 - 8:26am

but TJ Watt is such a good player while Kevin King is not terrible but continues to struggle to stay on the field and when on the field is just ok the Packers choosing King over Watt continues to look like a bad decision

For those not aware when this topic comes up in Packer forums 'pro-Watt' folks get branded 'U of Wisconsin homers' and dismissed for bias. But to me the combination of Watt's production and durability pretty much make this a pretty one-sided argument. King cannot stay healthy. King has played well at times and poorly other times.

Just disappointing that after picking other Wisconsin without nearly the resume of Watt when GB had the chance to pick a legit quality Badger the team whiffed.

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#108 by jh_eldred // Dec 10, 2019 - 12:48am

What's annoying about the King/Watt dialogue is that, yeah, Watt is a superior player, but at least King is still a solid starter. Even with King's injuries, it's not like they drafted a total bust. The reason it's called out as homerism is because it's brought up nonstop when it's not that egregious a pick compared to other gripes you can make. The Packers took Josh Jackson (who sucks out loud) over guys like Christian Kirk, Fred Warner, Dallas Goedert, and DJ Chark and had multiple shots at George Kittle. You can do this hindsight stuff all day, but it makes far more sense if the player you took is absolutely terrible. 

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#7 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 09, 2019 - 8:43am

he 49ers massively, MASSIVELY interfered with the wideout ... but there is a rule saying that there IS no pass interference on a punt. That's ... I mean, that's very strange.

Not strange at all. Once a ball is kicked, the "WR" becomes a defender and the blocking rules completely change. Also recall that anyone can punt. The idea is that it's a major advantage for the offense if the defense can never be certain it's going to be a punt.

It's worth recalling that short punt formation (i.e. shotgun) is older than pass interference rules.

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#10 by big10freak // Dec 09, 2019 - 8:51am

wasn't there a field goal attempt that was botched and when the Giants tried to recover by throwing a pass the intended receiver was mauled with no call?  But then the NFL said there 'should' have been a penalty? So why the difference between punts and field goal attempts?


Yup. Per multiple links NFL apologized for not calling PI on an eligible receiver.  Interesting on how punts and FG attempts are handled differently with respect to possible PI

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#15 by dmstorm22 // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:02am

The reason the rule exists is because in the course of a normal punt play, those two wide guys are getting intentionally blocked all the way down-field.

Basically if you called DPI by the book, you should run a fake punt every single time and get an easy DPI and 1st down.

The rule absolutely makes complete sense.

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#9 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 09, 2019 - 8:51am

It was also readily apparent that for the disparity in record and the hype around the Browns the two teams are basically even in talent, even as both went without their respective best players today.

The AFC North is just like that. Remember, Cleveland is one of Baltimore's losses.

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#12 by big10freak // Dec 09, 2019 - 8:54am

Two different coaching staffs and in 2018 and now in 2019 the GB Packers apparently are unable to scheme receivers open leaving the QB to make a play

Or is that the issue?

I am coming around to the perspective that 12 has some fundamental issues that are getting in the way of things. Because I see guys open within 1-2 seconds of the snap and the ball ain't coming out.


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#105 by dank067 // Dec 09, 2019 - 11:28pm

It's been a bummer watching the offense the last five games after it really looked like it had started to turn a corner in October - they had been without Adams in many of their best performances, too, so it's not like there was reason to think it was a mirage.

I think you're right - in addition to whatever decline he may have experienced in accuracy, Rodgers is not seeing or reading things correctly. Clips going around from yesterday's game show him missing not just quick reads, but also guys winning deep on plays where he had plenty of time to throw. I honestly do think that LaFleur's offense is giving Rodgers better options over the intermediate-to-deep middle and more viable checkdowns, as in the backs are in better positions within the timing of the progression and he has more crossers available to hit later in the down. It did seem like he was playing more in rhythm and more decisively in October. Wonder what it will take to get back to that.

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#13 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2019 - 8:57am

With each week of Stafford not playing, it becomes more obvious how undervalued he has been among the yappers. The Vikings did the golf equivalent of teeing off with a 6 iron on all the par 5's and par 4's yesterday, so confident they were that a Lions team without Stafford under center was incapable of being competitive.

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#19 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:25am

Remember when Stafford was getting murdered for a small downturn in stats after Megatron retired?

Yet Brady's excuse this year is no Gronk.

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#24 by RickD // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:44am

Remember when Stafford was getting murdered for a small downturn in stats after Megatron retired?

No?  Though I think it was noted that Megatron helped out Stafford a lot.  Just like Randy Moss helped out Culpepper a lot.  It helps to have a great WR.

Yet Brady's excuse this year is no Gronk.

Brady doesn't need an "excuse".  It's obvious the receivers aren't very good.  Even last year they were having problems because of Gronk's injuries.  The Pats' passing offense was also notably weaker in  2006 (Reche Caldwell!) than it was in 2007 after they picked up Randy Moss and Wes Welker.  It helps to have good receivers!  This shouldn't be controversial!  

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#37 by Pat // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:13am

In reply to by RickD

"Brady doesn't need an "excuse".  It's obvious the receivers aren't very good."

A few Philly analysts keep saying "look, it's pretty easy to tell when the QB is the problem - and it's obvious that Wentz isn't the problem." It's the exact same thing with Brady. Has Brady declined a bit? Probably, sure, but my God, Brady's not the problem.

It's not like the Patriots didn't know receivers were a problem, either, what with getting Gordon previously, drafting Harry, signing Brown and trading for Sanu. Honestly that whole thing is the biggest WTF for me, I have no idea why they went after such risky guys with Gordon and Brown considering how big the problem was. And then I wasn't a big fan of the Sanu trade, either - a second-round pick for a 30-year old receiver who's always been on a team with a much better receiving option seemed a huge stretch for me.

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#46 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:37am

It astounds me that Brady remains as good as he is at extending plays within the pocket.

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#103 by LionInAZ // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:30pm

In reply to by RickD

Nonsense. Stafford's FO numbers declined only a little after CJ's retirement, then went up significantly a year later. Stafford's DVOA has actually gotten better since then, while Brady's has declined since Gronkowski left. 

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#113 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Dec 10, 2019 - 10:14am

Gronk also made NE's run game much better.  Pretty sure any offense's DVOA would get a bump with (healthy) him in the line up, more so even than a stand-out WR like CJ or Randy Moss.

Now there's the subject of a possibly lively debate.  What non-QB has historically had the biggest impact on his team's overall DVOA?

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#117 by jh_eldred // Dec 10, 2019 - 2:18pm

Gotta assume JJ Watt and Reggie White are up there, and maybe some elite left tackles like Orlando Pace and Walter Jones. 

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#14 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2019 - 8:59am

Also, will the Patriots officiating conspiracy theorists put a cork in it for a while? At least 2 weeks?

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#16 by dmstorm22 // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:05am

I agree - though overall it was just a terrible officiating job on all sides but definitely hurt the Patriots way more.


That said, a lot of Pats fans on Twitter have to stop acting like no one has ever been screwed by a quick whistle before. I remember a certain team going to a Super Bowl two years ago because their opponent late in the fourth quarter got jobbed by a quick whistle on a certain fumble return TD.

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#23 by Pat // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:43am

I remember the Patriots getting a favorable quick whistle like, a month ago - and one that couldn't even have been fixed with a challenge since they called forward progress.

But I agree with Carl, in that I place some blame on the Patriots for not having a challenge for the Harry play (or the PI call, which I think they might've won, but the Harry play would've been a gimme). They never should've challenged the spot on that first down call. Kansas City still would've gone for it on 4th and inches, and they never would've stopped them anyway. Challenging a 3rd down spot just never makes sense to me. 4th down spot sure, obviously, that's a turnover call. But challenging a 3rd down spot is just dumb.

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#54 by morganja // Dec 09, 2019 - 11:09am

Panthers lost the first game of the year on a truly horrible fourth down spot due to the lack of the side official. Belichick wasting his challenge on a third down spot that really wasn't that far off in the grand scheme of things, was a truly stupid mistake, inspired by a long, long history of getting those calls like clockwork. 
136 penalty yards and they are still whining that they got screwed by the refs. A third of their yardage was from penalties.

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#17 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:09am

But the Patriots, of course, get all the calls, right?

Exception that proves the rule. Sufficiently large variance can generate a sub-par result even for exceptionally right-shifted populations.

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#21 by RickD // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:40am

Aside from "that's not even what that phrase" means...

"Exception proves the rule" doesn't mean "we can ignore evidence that doesn't fit our prejudices."  

(What it actually means, even though the phrase is misused constantly,  is that a rule can be inferred when its exceptions are made explicitly.  For example, if you see a sign that says "No parking between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.", you can infer that parking is allowed at other times.)




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#34 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:07am

In reply to by RickD

No who has actually parked in a major city believes that.

There is obviously another sign, mounted the wrong way, further up the street, that controls.

We call that sign "Gene Steratore."

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#120 by armchair journ… // Dec 10, 2019 - 10:33pm

that sign is also embedded inside an overgrown tree canopy that hasn't been trimmed in years, and completely invisible from the street.

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#83 by ChrisS // Dec 09, 2019 - 2:25pm

In reply to by RickD

I thought it mean that in order to have an exception there must be a rule. 

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#39 by johonny // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:20am

Is the Pats get jobbed in meaningless mid-season game. Then win a play off game based on totally biased refing. But fans can point back to that week 12 game and say, see they don't get all the calls. If you're a conspiracy minded person :)

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#42 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:31am

I also know the British monarch and Walt Disney are wrapped up in this somehow!

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#67 by sportzboytjw // Dec 09, 2019 - 12:34pm

real galaxy brainers can see the epstein connection, sure 

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#78 by cstoos // Dec 09, 2019 - 1:32pm

It isn't like the Pats got bad calls all night.  They got two bad calls on the same possession.  Meanwhile, penalties on the Chiefs extended Pats' drives multiple times, leading directly to points at the opening of the game after stopping them on third down twice.  (The second penalty was a good call, but the first was atrocious)

Additionally, a few sketchy penalties were called on the Chiefs O stalling drives.  Blind side block?  Are you kidding me?

So if you want to add up direct scoring the refs gave NE +7 on the first drive and -4 on the other drive, for a grand total of +3 for NE on botched officiating.  Of course, that's not how real life works, but the narrative of the refs deciding the game is a joke.  Anyone who watched saw that NE was lucky as hell not to be down 30.

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#101 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:27pm

Additionally, a few sketchy penalties were called on the Chiefs O stalling drives.  Blind side block?  Are you kidding me?

It was pretty much a text-book blindside block.  As examples go, that's a weird one.

For the record, I think NFL ref'ing has been terrible this season, and the Pats-KC was another in a long line of games impacted way too much by blatantly bad calls.  But it'd be helpful if we stuck with the actual errors rather than calls the refs got right.

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#18 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:14am

Aaron Schatz: Blocked punt for Nate Ebner. There have been nine official blocked punts in the NFL this year and the Patriots now have four of them. I don't count blocked punts in special teams DVOA because they are "non-predictive" plays, even though they have a lot of value. But four in one year makes you wonder if they are predictive when you have a team in the extreme like this. Or is it just a case that every so often, some special teams unit is bound to have four in one year? Patriots score two plays later, with running plays finally working against the Chiefs -- one for 10 yards, one for 9 yards. The run on the two-point conversion doesn't work, so it's now 23-13 Chiefs.

It appears to have a large degree of seasonal variance. NE is generating blocked punts at a high rate, and they get a lot of opposing punts in total, so their net is high. Their rate is high, too, but that's less historically exceptional.
2014 Dolphins blocked punts at a similar rate, but at a lower count (3 in 61).
2014 Eagles had the same count.

Season record appears to be 6.

Harry Newsome of the 1988 Steelers gave up six blocked kicks himself. Unsurprisingly, he also has the highest career rate. (He gave up another three in a different season)

Record in a game is 3, done twice.

Technically has only happened once in the NFL.

The variance is not surprising. It takes two to tango. You need both a good blocking unit, but also a poor-blocking or slow-kicking opposing punt team.

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#36 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:12am

Vikings in the Bud Grant era blocked a ton of kicks; punts, field goals, and PATs. They beat a good Bucs team in '79 by one point, after blocking two PATs, a field goal, and a punt. They blocked punts in two Super Bowls (for all the good it did them), and had a 90 field goal block return to help win a conference championship.

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#76 by nuclearbdgr // Dec 09, 2019 - 1:15pm

You should also include former Packer Gary Lewis - he blocked 5 kicks (3FGs, 2 XPs) in 1983 leading to the rule eliminating running up to the line to jump to block a kick.

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#20 by RickD // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:37am

"Was that … booing as the Patriots left the field? Yeah, today's game isn't going well, but you're booing Tom Brady in New England? C'mon, guys."

I don't think they were booing Brady, specifically. Brady was one of the few bright spots of that game. But the team as a whole was flat, and was particularly bad in the second quarter. Jonathan Jones made a couple misplays that cost the team badly on defense. The blocking was bad on both passing plays and running plays. Receivers not named "Edelman" couldn't get open on single coverage. They had a FG try blocked. Just a lot of bad football in the first half.

I think we need a separate thread at some point about how bad the officiating is right now. In addition to Boger's many other mistakes, apparently he walked off only five yards on a ten-yard penalty.

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#25 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:45am

For the life of me, I don't understand how video review didn't catch the spot that was off by at least 1 yard. When you can't correct that kind of error, seen multiple times in slow motion, "awful officiating" doesn't begin to describe the current state.

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#26 by dmstorm22 // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:48am

For sure they should have moved the ball back closer to the 39 and re-measured. It may have been a 1st down anyway, but to not move the ball was abhorrent.

By the way, do you remember if it counts as a failed challenge if the spot was wrong but it is a first down anyway?

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#29 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:51am

I'm pretty sure it is only the spot being challenged, not the resulting chain measurement.

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#31 by Ambientdonkey // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:57am

Spot challenges actually require either achieving or removal of a first down to be considered successful. It really makes no sense.

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#33 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:01am

Well, I understand the desire to cut down on spot challenges, except in the highest leverage situations. The games get slowed up enough.

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#80 by cstoos // Dec 09, 2019 - 1:35pm

He would have had the first down, even with a correct spot, so they won't change it.  Kind of a dumb rule, but spotting is such guess work that a coach could probably challenge every play otherwise.


Where I think it is really dumb is when they are off by like 5 yards but it doesn't change a first down, the teams should be able to challenge anything that is over 2 yards off.

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#30 by Pat // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:56am

You can only challenge the spot of a ball as it relates to first down or touchdown. You can't challenge that it should be at the 39 instead of the 40. So Belichick had to challenge that it wasn't a first down, and the refs looked at it and said "can't tell that it's not a first down, so the ruling on the field stands" and the ball doesn't move.

They changed that in 2016, because otherwise spot challenges would be almost free, because +/-0.5 yard spot swings happen pretty frequently (and off by a full yard happens often enough too).

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#32 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:59am

I'd forgotten the rule change, and it does make a third down challenge unwise. Tha ball really should have been respotted, and then measured, however.

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#51 by PatsFan // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:59am

It doesn't need to be respotted and measured.  Outside the 10s or 20s the refs always fudge the spot on make-ready-for-play after a first down has been made so that the next series starts on an exact yard line.

That series started exactly on the 29 and so the ball had to make exactly the 39.  That video did not provide enough evidence that the ball failed to make exactly the 39 so the first down ruling stands.

Also, I suspect, though have not gone to tape to verify, that what happened is that the dead ball spot (rightly or wrongly) was over the 39.  The refs could instantly see that given that spot a first down was made.  So they moved the ball up to the 40 so the next series could start on an exact yard line.  Then Belichick challenged.  The replay failed to provide enough evidence to overturn the first down ruling so they just left the ball alone.  (If they had moved it, they would have moved it to just past the 39 but then moved it right back to the 40 on the make-ready-for-play spot.)

[hat tip to Travis]


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#41 by dryheat // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:28am

It definitely used to be that way, but it's possible the ruling changed.  If not, the Patriots should have won that challenge and then had a 3rd to use on the Harry TD -- which was a great RAC by the rook.

It's says volumes that the Patriots couldn't challenge obvious bad calls late in the game, because they had already used up their allotment of challenges overturning bad calls.

The worse part about the Harry non-TD was that Jerome Boger postgame said that the responsible official couldn't see the play because a defender was obstructing his view, and that the OOB call came from the official much farther away down the sidelines.  If the closest official doesn't know if the player was in-bounds or not, and the other official is clearly guessing, wouldn't it make sense to, after consulting, call the runner in-bounds and review the touchdown?

Between those missed calls and three picked-up flags in the span of about 6 plays in the first half, it was a tough, tough day for Boger's crew.

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#68 by Not Jimmy // Dec 09, 2019 - 12:43pm

OK - I know this is wacky - Since every TD play is reviewed, why isn't every "possible" TD play reviewed?  Like every play that ends within the end zone has a quick booth review?  Allow a scoop and score to finish out - or a "possible" step out on a run to continue if it is only one foot out then check it with replay.

It seems to me that blowing the play dead in the case of player safety makes all the sense in the world, but blowing it dead because a player may have stepped out of bounds, or may or may not have fumbled?  In my opinion those may not need to be a "blow it dead" situation.  Meh - probably introducing too much subjectivity in.

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#72 by dryheat // Dec 09, 2019 - 12:54pm

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#88 by Not Jimmy // Dec 09, 2019 - 3:31pm

Huh - I'd say "Great Minds Think Alike", but I'm a moron.

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#115 by Not Jimmy // Dec 10, 2019 - 10:56am

That's great...

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#22 by Mike B. In Va // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:40am

Does anyone have any idea what McDaniel's game plan was besides "throw shit at the wall and see if it sticks"?

If there was an overall plan, it wasn't apparent. Very un-NE.

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#28 by Pat // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:51am

Really? I thought the announcers hit it on the head - move Edelman around outside to shift the defense and leave the other receivers single-covered. Downside there is that the other receivers weren't gaining leverage fast enough for Brady to find them, and I don't think Brady doesn't trust them enough to throw anticipation throws to them anyway. Same problem the Eagles have on offense.

Although I'm not really sure "trust" is the right word, it gets used all the time here but I don't think it's like Brady (or Wentz in Philly's case) could just chuck it to them and pray - I don't think the receivers are consistently doing the same things so the QB doesn't actually know where they're going to be. That's definitely true in Philly's case, where people have consistently said "look, he's open, he should throw it to him here" and then the receiver bends his route in some odd way and whatever throw the QB would've made would've been incomplete.

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#35 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:11am

The down side is that Edelman's strength is as an inside receiver.

The question is do you preserve your one above-average weapon, or trade that for the hope of raising everyone else to average?

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#43 by dryheat // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:32am

I think the correct answer is both, but it sure makes for a crowded middle of the field when your #1 slot receiver is dragging two guys with him.  Since the Patriots WR corps is made up entirely of slot recievers, pass catching running backs, and Philip Dorsett, I like moving Edelman out to create some room.

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#49 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:51am

What's the name for when every individual decision was optimal, but the net result was not because the distribution was wrong?

NE seems to have trapped itself by going all-in on per-play efficient guys who are no longer efficient because they have no volume guys.

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#55 by dryheat // Dec 09, 2019 - 11:11am

Totally agree.  Letting Gordon go and signing Sanu, to pair with Edelman and two rookie slot guys has made the defense's job easy.  I think I said this last week, but for a guy who was a speed merchant coming out of Miami, Dorsett has no ability to get open.  This team is ridiculously easy to defend right now, and I don't see it changing.  Can't run, can't block, can get open, can't kick...  Besides that, the offense is pretty good.

On the plus side, I thought Belichick/McDaniels made some good adjustments at the half.  Let's see if they can figure out a way to make the opposing defense defend beyond 15 yards.

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#58 by PatsFan // Dec 09, 2019 - 11:30am

It's not like Gordon did that much for them (or is doing much for Seattle).  Sanu had a pretty good game against BAL but has been useless since his ankle injury.

What really killed this team was Gronk screwing them by waiting so long to retire (causing them to miss out on Cook), then the OL injuries, then the FB injuries.  I really think they were planning this season to be a continuation of the end of last season with a strong running game to keep the pressure off Brady but then injuries, etc. destroyed the running game.

(Also, the $5mil cap space wasted on Brown has hurt trying to get help, too.)

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#70 by dryheat // Dec 09, 2019 - 12:49pm

Gordon forced defenses to pay attention to someone other than Edelman, and to defend the deep part of the field.  That has value.

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#77 by Sixknots // Dec 09, 2019 - 1:20pm

I don't think Seattle has figured that out for Gordon.  His targets all seem to be crossers.

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#45 by Pat // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:34am

Keeping Edelman inside keeps more defenders in the box, which negates the best way to slow down the Chiefs rush, by running at them, and you're also going to get screwed when you get close to the goal line as well. I think in the end the plan was good, their receivers (and the offensive line) just couldn't execute it.

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#48 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:50am

I call it Ebron's Law.

\it would have been called Agholor's Law, but he dropped it.

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#52 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2019 - 11:05am

God save NFL GMs who use first round picks on guys who  GMs are convinced can be taught to be good at catching the ball after they receive millions of dollars. Owners, too. I remember when Red McCombs, who owned the Vikings for less than a decade, thought the solution for the problem created by trading Randy Moss away was drafting a really, really, fast Troy Williamson at number 7. Turned out the guy had a serious vision problem! As in having little depth perception! 


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#90 by Pat // Dec 09, 2019 - 3:59pm

I have never understood the NFL's draft profile thingy. It always seems to be completely counter to the majority of scouting reports out there.

Walterfootball: "Agholor also needs to work on his hands as he can be prone to some drops."
BGN: "Agholor is prone to mental errors and has trouble tracking the ball in the air." (well THAT was dead on!) "Hands are no issue whatsoever when the concentration is there; when it’s not, he’ll drop catchable passes and make fielding punts a bit of an adventure."

I think a lot of the disconnect there is not realizing the difference between catching the ball and locating/tracking the ball. On shorter passes where he doesn't have to locate the ball while in motion, he's fine catching the ball. Of course that's a terrible fit for an offense like Pederson's where they want you to get the ball in motion and make people miss. Of course he wasn't drafted for that offense, so there's that... but I have no idea why Philly signed him in the offseason. That was wacko nuts.

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#53 by Pat // Dec 09, 2019 - 11:07am

It's not entirely that, the other downside is that Brady's old and immediately makes you realize exactly how fast NFL players are when he runs (because Brady's probably actually faster than most people, but looks like absolute molasses on the field). Which means they're really dependent on the rest of the skill position players actually doing something.

I should point out that it's not like Brady had a great game either - the pick was totally his fault, his footwork was awful on that play (he didn't step into the throw at all, hence the reason the ball was underthrown) and it wasn't even a good decision to begin with, as he didn't see the outside corner watching him.

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#61 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2019 - 11:35am

You cannot stop Rich Eisen, you only hope to contain him.

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#69 by Pat // Dec 09, 2019 - 12:45pm

Yeah, that was after 11 years of running it. The first time he ran it he put up a 6.77. Pulled it down to mid-6s after a few years, and then he must've started exercising/practicing since he shaved off about 0.3 seconds after 2009.

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#59 by Mike B. In Va // Dec 09, 2019 - 11:33am

...but they didn't do much of that until the 3rd quarter (moving Edelman outside), and even then, it felt like a brutal in-game adjustment because no one else seemed to know where to go.


Maybe it really was poor execution, but the gameplan lacked the signature "NE attacks your strength in a way that makes it a weakness" approach. Then again, I don't think we've seen much of that this season.

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#66 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 09, 2019 - 12:23pm

KC's strength is pass rush. You either beat that with quick passing (couldn't, because WRs suck) or rushing (usually viable against KC).

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#73 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Dec 09, 2019 - 1:02pm

Per DVOA, KC's weakness is their run defence.  NE attacked that but couldn't beat it, then fell behind and were forced instead to attack KC's strength: their pass defence.

And despite that and a number of ref mistakes that went against them, NE was one great defensive play by Breeland from forcing an OT that was probably 65-35 in their favour considering the way the second half went.

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#79 by Pat // Dec 09, 2019 - 1:33pm

Part of the reason why New England couldn't run against Kansas City is because they weren't really spreading them out much. If Edelman was in the slot, the defenders were mostly in the middle of the field and so the Chiefs were mostly at a man advantage when the Patriots mostly ran towards the middle of the field.

"And despite that and a number of ref mistakes that went against them"

I don't think there's a "despite that" there for the offense - the reason they were in the game was because of the blocked punt and the Kelce fumble. Those are more in their control than the ref mistakes, but they're still "lucky" in the sense that they're not common mistakes by Kansas City. I definitely wouldn't've bet on them to win in overtime had they made it.

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#102 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:36pm

I guess people just saw the game differently.  The balance of comments on this page are along the lines of "what's wrong with the Patriots?" and I all I can think is "what are people talking about?  they were one play away from OT against a playoff team, how is that a bad game?"


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#118 by Pat // Dec 10, 2019 - 5:00pm

Expectations. New England's a 10-2 team with 34.9% DVOA. They lost and put up 23.6% DVOA. Not a bad game - actually a half-decent one - but still lower than the level that they had established for the year. And if I had to guess, it probably further pushes their offense downward as well, at least to "average", and likely "below average" for weighted DVOA. Which is just continuing a downward trend there.

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#27 by dmstorm22 // Dec 09, 2019 - 9:51am

The 49ers offense becoming better and better as the season is wearing on reminds me a lot of the 2015 Panthers that went 15-1.

Obviously, these 49ers were historically great on defense from day 1, while those Panthers were merely very good to great on defense, but the growth of the 49ers offense to complement a truly great unit has been fun to watch. Maybe it was just a case of Garoppolo needing more snaps to get used to playing again after the ACL tear.

The Panthers in 2015 started out undefeated but with a slew of close wins, and then just took off in the second half of the season. They also played a shootout in New Orleans rihgt around this time - it was Week 13 for them with a 41-38 win.

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#63 by bravehoptoad // Dec 09, 2019 - 11:41am

Playing again after the ACL tear?  Shoot, the guy hadn't played much before the ACL tear.  10 games, something like that?  So, sometime earlier this year he started his 16th game and officially had a rookie-year's worth of starts.  He's still behind Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield in games started, but seems to be picking things up pretty well. 

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#38 by Todd S. // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:16am

I watched Mostert in college at Purdue and his best attribute is straight-line speed. I assume the 49ers are using him on one-read plays designed to get him to make a quick cut and go. He returned kickoffs at Purdue and had some success there. He was not a featured back, even in college. I doubt he has the vision to be an every down back in the NFL. That said, I am happy he is having some success!

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#82 by zenbitz // Dec 09, 2019 - 2:24pm

49ers don't want a every down back.

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#91 by bravehoptoad // Dec 09, 2019 - 4:19pm

They're mostly using him in outside zone reads, which are indeed one-cut-and-gone type of plays, though the location of that one cut can vary.  If his vision is good enough for that, it's not vision that would keep him from being an every-down back.  Plenty of other zone-read running backs have done it.  He also has a dozen receptions on the year, but I haven't been paying enough attention to know how good of a blocker he is. 

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#40 by johonny // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:26am

"Tannehill has never had a back like Derrick Henry"

Jay Ajayi was pretty darn good in those 12 games he started in 2016 when Miami last made the playoffs.

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#85 by Noahrk // Dec 09, 2019 - 2:57pm

Sure, maybe a slight exaggeration, but Tannehill truly never had much of anything in Miami: running game, pass pro, defense. He was always a guy who could make every throw as long as you could give him time. Passrush is his kriptonyte. It doesn't surprise me one bit that he's tearing it up in an offense (and team) such as he has right now. Just don't fall behind by too much, Titans, because you'll likely see the ugly side of Tannehill then. Which isn't even that terrible, not like he'll start throwing interceptions left and right... he won't be able to carry the team, though.

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#44 by bravehoptoad // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:34am

Scott Spratt: So much for the 49ers having the No. 1 DVOA defense against tight ends....

Their starting Will linebacker, Kwon Alexander, is out for the season. Their starting SS, Jaquisky Tartt, is out for a few games with broken ribs. They've got a practice-squad guy, Marcell Harris, playing for Tartt, and with Alexander out, his direct replacement is a 5th-round rookie (Dre Greenlaw), and their third LB is a rookie UDFA (Azeez Al-Shaair).

So yeah, their tight-end coverage is going to be down a bit.

Tartt should be back at some point, and the rookies...will get better with playing time? The Ravens made hay forcing the 49ers to play base defense instead of nickle. I haven't watched the game yet; were the Saints doing the same? Going 21 personnel might be the way to play the 49ers going forward to force all those young LBs onto the field.

Points: 0

#50 by BJR // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:54am

Josh Allen - turns out a two game sample against terrible pass defences is not enough to determine that he has developed into a good QB.

Ryan Tannehill: with the same caveat as above......I am on record as saying I really liked the signing when it was made by Tennessee in the summer. If you don’t have a long term QB (and even if you don’t) then create as many inexpensive, low-risk/potential upside scenarios as possible. Good work Titans.

Mahomes: The past three weeks have definitely not been up to his usual excellence. Playing through injury all year probably taking its toll. The Chiefs could benefit from being locked into the #3 seed early and sitting him for a week or two.

Rams: I was rather bleary eyed and not really concentrating by the time I watched this game. What exactly happened to allow the Seattle pass offense to be shut down? Have the Rams corrected their own offense? Goff appeared to have a lot of time to throw last night.

Points: 0

#62 by Mike B. In Va // Dec 09, 2019 - 11:40am

Tough to hang this one on Allen when the line was as porous as NE's. I thought he did a pretty good job of being responsible and not lapsing into hero ball. If this has happened in week 4, he'd have thrown 3-4 stupid interceptions.

So, he's definitely improved. He wasn't good, but he was bad in a much better way, if that makes sense.

Also, Baltimore's secondary is really, really good. No other team in the NFL could play that much Cover 0 without getting cooked.

Points: 0

#89 by Boots Day // Dec 09, 2019 - 3:34pm

Mahomes: The past three weeks have definitely not been up to his usual excellence. Playing through injury all year probably taking its toll. The Chiefs could benefit from being locked into the #3 seed early and sitting him for a week or two.

Mahomes yesterday had the most passing yards against the Patriots of any QB since the blowout victory over Big Ben and the Steelers in week one.

Points: 0

#92 by BJR // Dec 09, 2019 - 5:15pm

Sure, I didn’t say he played badly, just not up to the MVP level we’re accustomed to. He’s suffered multiple significant injuries this year; it would be amazing if his play hadn’t suffered a little. 

Points: 0

#110 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 10, 2019 - 8:38am

Which is more of a knock on the Pats than a bump for Mahomes. He was underthrowing balls that were fluttering. He did not look healthy.

Points: 0

#60 by lenny65 // Dec 09, 2019 - 11:33am

Hear hear, couldn't agree more. Reasonably exciting finish, game on the line, then the whole thing grinds to a complete halt as the zebras consult on a penalty that could have gone either way. It's grown extremely tiresome. Just from a fan perspective, it completely kills the moment and those "moments" are why we watch in the first place. Sure, it (in theory) prevents egregious blown calls and that's great, but when it's ticky-tack stuff that could have gone either way the whole things just comes off as farcical.

Points: 0

#65 by mansteel // Dec 09, 2019 - 12:14pm

Completely agree. I think I'm in a small minority in that I don't really care if a borderline call is wrong. My view is they should use replay only to quickly correct egregiously incorrect calls. Of course, this just moves the debate to what constitutes egregious, but that is not an argument I care about. If you can't see it clearly on the first or maybe second angle, let it go and move on. Shouldn't ever take more than 30 seconds, so no need to go to commercial...oh, wait, now I see the flaw in my plan.


Points: 0

#71 by BJR // Dec 09, 2019 - 12:50pm

Thirded. To me at least, scrutinizing slow motion replays to determine whether PI was committed is about the least interesting aspect of the game imaginable. And it's frequently inconclusive anyway. 

Provided the reffing is competent and unbiased overall, I honestly could not care less about the occasional obvious blunder. Just get on with the game, and learn to roll with the punches. (Brady, to his credit, basically said this in his post-match interviews.)

Now whether the NFL is currently doing the utmost to ensure competent reffing, is indeed debatable. 

Points: 0

#86 by Noahrk // Dec 09, 2019 - 2:59pm

Riveron is so incompetent. I imagine he's a highly technical guy who lacks the imagination to make creative corrections to his technical judgement. I can't wait for him to get fired.

Points: 0

#87 by ChrisS // Dec 09, 2019 - 3:21pm

Agreed, replay is too slow and annoying, flipping a coin would be better. Perhaps just have a video official(s) review everything and overturn obvious missed calls. 

Points: 0

#93 by sportzboytjw // Dec 09, 2019 - 5:30pm

What if in the event that a challenge wasn't going the coach's way, it just became a coin flip. "Mike Tomlin is coming out with his 'salute the troops' challenge coin. Looks like the refs didn't see things his way. He will flip the coin, the ref calls it in the air, and if the ref loses, Tomlin wins the challenge anyway."

Points: 0

#99 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2019 - 7:50pm

Only if Tomln also gets to to put the ref in a headlock, and give him 5 noogies as well!

Points: 0

#111 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 10, 2019 - 8:39am

Coaches waited for Hochuli to retire before implementing this rule.

Points: 0

#100 by lenny65 // Dec 09, 2019 - 8:39pm

But then the coin lands on its edge and is subject to another booth review, with Joe and Troy going over the coin flip footage frame by agonizing frame, trying to determine if the coin is actually leaning more towards "heads" than "tails".

"Let's go to our officiating expert, what do YOU see, Mike?"

"Well, Joe, in that final frame it appears that one blade of grass is indeed holding the coin up and preventing it from falling on the "heads" side. I think this one will be overturned."

Points: 0

#74 by BJR // Dec 09, 2019 - 1:06pm

Drew Brees 29/40, 8.7 YPA, 5TDs, 0 INT, 0 sacks taken. Against the defense ranked 10th best ever through 13 weeks. Suspect Aaron might be dusting off the best Quarterback DYAR games ever list right now.

(And scarcely mentioned anywhere, because they lost.)

Points: 0

#81 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 09, 2019 - 2:07pm

I'm curious if this will be the highest combined offensive DVOA game in the list.

Points: 0

#84 by TomC // Dec 09, 2019 - 2:25pm

I was on the road, listening to CBS's "around the NFL"-type show on the local sports radio station, and they managed to go to the stringer in Atlanta about ten seconds before Zaccheaus's TD. "A punt and a penalty have the Falcons backed up all the way inside their own 5. Oh, but now it looks like they're going to get a 93-yard touchdown from...I'm trying to's...a guy...I think there's a 'K' in the name..."

Points: 0

#94 by Moridin // Dec 09, 2019 - 5:39pm

For me, yesterday was a pretty fun day of football. Vikings won, Patriots lost, 49ers won, Denver won, Baltimore won, KC won (last two mostly as leaving/continuing hope for not Patriots to represent the AFC). Good times :)

Points: 0

#97 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Dec 09, 2019 - 6:34pm

"That was a great example of why spot challenges are often not worth it"

No, it's an example of why the challenge system is awful. Just let them challenge as long as they have a timeout.

And if they don't have a timeout, adjudicate the challenge and then hit them with a delay of game penalty.

Points: 0

#104 by LionInAZ // Dec 09, 2019 - 10:59pm

I caught only bits of Sunday's games, but what I took away was:

1. The Saints screwed themselves with bad penalties on defense, especially on 3rd down. It's pretty late in the season to be pulling that crap. Doesn't bode well.

2. Rams won because they took the ball out of Goff's hands. Too late to help them. Seahawks still hold the division tiebreaker, so they're still in control of their fate.

Points: 0

#106 by Mountain Time … // Dec 09, 2019 - 11:59pm

> I was in the car when Cook scored his second touchdown and got hit on the personal foul. National announcers were stunned the touchdown call stood up to review, and, well, I see their point.

Cook completed a football move: getting hit in the head and knocked unconscious.

Points: 0

#107 by beargoggles // Dec 10, 2019 - 12:46am

I think overturning that would have been cruel and unfortunate, rewarding the defense basically for an illegal hit to the head (Niners fan speaking).

Points: 0

#114 by bravehoptoad // Dec 10, 2019 - 10:19am

Agree.  I'm pretty sure Witherspoon was trying to put his shoulderpad on the ball, but rewarding what actually happened would have send bad messages.

Points: 0

#116 by JudoPrince03 // Dec 10, 2019 - 2:05pm

Scott's take on the Lamar interception was spot on. I initially thought it was poorly overthrown but after checking out the all 22 tape, it's clear there was a defender directly in the passing lane and the ball had to be high. I put more of the blame on not adjusting the routes pre-snap. Two slot receivers ran a vertical and deep post route while two outside receivers ran deep out routes. When the defense plays a 'sticks' alignment with the secondary combined with double A gap blitzes from the linebackers, you have to counter with slants and quick outs.

Points: 0

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